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New details released in Tampa councilman sexual harassment probe

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Posted at 7:43 PM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 10:18:47-04

TAMPA, Fla — Trenam Law has billed the city of Tampa $98,897.50 for the work three of its employees did on a sexual harassment investigation. The city hired the outside firm to look into claims made against former Tampa City Council Chairman, Orlando Gudes, by a former legislative aide.

It's one of the first glaring details in a 349-page update that the city dropped in the case late last week.

The new documents also reveal more internal conversations about that woman's complaints and a detailed explanation about why the outside firm who did the investigation found her and her allegations to be credible.

RELATED: Orlando Gudes steps down as Tampa City Council Chairman, no plans to resign

In a wrap-up of the investigation, the firm wrote that the woman "seemed genuine" and several statements were "corroborated" by other people. The document goes on to say the investigators also found Gudes credible when he expressed that the former aide was struggling to keep up with her work. He also had witnesses to back up those statements.

ABC Action News spoke to attorney Scott Silverman who says when determining credibility in these cases attorneys are looking for how accurate someone's story is.

"Just because I find that some person is more credible than the other doesn't mean that the other person is a liar. It just means that this other person may have got a better understanding of what occurred," he said.

RELATED: Councilman Gudes' former aide releases 1st statement amid sexual harassment claim

The new documents also include lengthy discussions about sexual harassment. Gudes' attorney has pushed back against this, saying that what his client is accused of doesn't rise to that level.

But Silverman said it may, though he adds that in this case it can also be described as "gender harassment."

"Does somebody necessarily have to make unwanted sexual advancements for their behavior to be considered sexual harassment?" asked ABC Action News reporter Rochelle Alleyne.

"No. Unwanted sexual advances can be evidence of sexual harassment, but it's not required," said Silverman.

He adds that under the law sexual harassment must be:

  1. The conduct must be unwelcome. The complainant must have subjectively found the harassment unwelcome and must have neither invited nor otherwise incited the offensive conduct. The issue is whether the complainant by her conduct indicated whether the complained-of behavior was unwelcome.
  2. The conduct must be based on a protected category. The complainant must show that “but for” her gender, she would not have been subjected to the harassment. The issue is whether members of one sex are exposed to disadvantageous terms and conditions of employment to which member of to the other sex are not exposed.
  3. The conduct must be sufficiently severe or pervasive. An objectionable environment must be both objectively and subjectively offensive, one that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and one that the victim in fact did perceive to be so. Courts look at all circumstances, including frequency, severity, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating or whether it is a mere offensive utterance, and whether it interferes in work performance.
  4. There must be a basis for holding the employer liable. If the alleged harasser is a co-worker or customer, the complainant must show that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt, remedial action. If the alleged harasser is a supervisor, the employer is automatically liable if the harassment culminated in adverse action against the complainant, but the employer may assert an affirmative defense to harassment if it did not. The defense is that the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior, and the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise

Gudes gave little comment on the case after a city council meeting Tuesday.

"It's best to say that we are still waiting for all the documents and once my legal team gets all the documents, we'll be able to show what was really going on in the city of Tampa," he said.

His former aide has released the following statement saying that she wants Gudes to "...step down, stop talking and stop using others to harass her."

That woman's attorney said, “We are considering mediation with the city - but we are not in mediation with Gudes.”